November 14th, 2011, Shenzhen, China – BGI the world’s largest genomic organization and Johns Hopkins University (JHU), today signed a collaborative research agreement for the synthetic yeast project (SC2.0 PROJECT), an ambitious synthetic biology project which seeks to re-design and synthesize the yeast genome. This project was initiated by JHU and serves as part of JHU’s synthetic biology program.
In addition to the research collaboration of SC2.0 PROJECT, BGI’s researchers will have the opportunity to access the synthetic biology expertise of JHU. They can attend for internship the undergraduate course, “Build-A-Genome,” associated with the project at JHU. During the course, they can perform synthesis of segments of the synthetic yeast genome by themselves.
The signing ceremony was held during the “6th International Conference on Genomics” hosted by BGI in Shenzhen from Nov. 12 to 15, 2011. The ceremony was attended by Dr. Huanming Yang, Chairman of BGI; three principal investigators of the project, Dr. Jef Boeke, Director of the High Throughput Biology Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Joel Bader, Associate Professor of the High Throughput Biology Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Dr. Yizhi Cai, Autodesk Distinguished Scholar of the High Throughput Biology Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Yue Shen, Head of Synthetic Biology Unit at BGI. Key representatives of BGI Americas presented including Ruth Kaucher, Vice President of Scientific Liaison, Americas and Dr. Joyce Peng, Marketing Director.
“Synthetic biology is a new emerging research field, which provides a unique opportunity for researchers to study many profound life science questions. When biological researchers are transitioning from the DNA sequence of an organism to a synthetic genome, researchers will face more challenges and opportunities with synthetic biology,” stated Prof. Yang. “With JHU’s valuable skill, experience and ability in the research of synthetic biology, we believe we can achieve significant breakthroughs in the future study of synthetic biology.”
Synthetic biology aims to design synthetic biological systems utilizing genetic engineered micro-organisms for the production of biofuels and drugs. It can help scientists to understand the living system of natural organisms, such as biological mechanisms, responses and adaptation to various environmental conditions, evolution, among others. Synthetic biology is expected to provide ground breaking applications with engineered biology systems designed and built to help in the production of chemicals, energy and food to maintain and enhance human health and the environment.
With a well-understood genome and the wide applications of yeast in bioremediation, food processing, medicine, etc, yeast has been an excellent model organism used in the studies of synthetic biology. In the SC2.0 PROJECT, the yeast S. cerevisiae is used as the basis for a newly engineered life form that resulted from specific alternations incorporated into the synthetic chromosomes. The “synthetic yeast” approach can be used to answer a wide variety of profound questions about fundamental properties of chromosomes, genome organization, gene content, the function of RNA splicing, and questions relating to genome structure and evolution.
The rapid development of high-throughput sequencing technology has led to a boom in genomic information of different organisms, which also facilitates the rapid detection and identification of synthetic systems and organisms. Meanwhile, it could help synthetic biologists to verify an engineered biological system as proposed, given that the DNA sequences of the single gene or entire genome are designed by computer and then built by chemical synthesis.
“As the first artificial eukaryotic cell genome project, SC2.0 PROJECT will play a significant role in the history of the development of biotechnology. With the rapid development of next generation sequencing technology, I believe we can seek much better solutions to face the challenges in Synthetic Biology.” said Yue Shen. “We really appreciate this opportunity to collaborate with JHU. With this project, I believe BGI will be able to explore more opportunities for valuable research in human disease and biomedical areas” she added.
Audrey Huang, M.A., Ph.D
Director, Basic Science Research Communications
Dr. Bicheng Yang
Public Communication Officer